Hawks face nemesis again

For the Atlanta Hawks, another week begins with back-to-back games, the first being tonight in Orlando. For this team, it’s been a season of streaks so far, wherein anything they’ve done once, they’ve done at least twice before going the other way. In other words, if they came off a loss and won the next game, they’ve won at least two in a row before losing again. Will that trend continue or break tonight?

 

The Damien Effect

If you didn’t know it before, let me tell you now. Damien Wilkins is no joke on the defensive end. While he played limited minutes and the Hawks couldn’t pull out the victory, it was refreshing to see an Atlanta guard giving an all out effort on the perimeter, and doing so effectively. How about that? Sorry, but I have to say it again – couldn’t the Hawks have used this more than Etan Thomas? Well, you know what they say…better late than never, and at least this move comes around 20 games into the season, rather than halfway through.

Hold the phone, though. If you think Wilkins will be around simply as a 5 to 7 minute defensive specialist, think again. While his career shooting percentages are nothing to write home about, he can still provide some offense here and there. Few things are better coming off the bench than a guy who can play two positions, provide very good defense, and hit a few shots. Watch for Wilkins to demonstrate this as he learns Drew’s offense, and as long as the Hawks keep sharing the ball. It also gives the Hawks a good modified three guard lineup off the bench if Drew finds the matchups to be beneficial (Jamal-PG, Mo-SG, Wilkins-SG/SF being one example). This might even help matters when Marvin Williams is practicing his magic act. Perhaps the Hawks would do well to heed this endorsement:

It’s just one game, but Al is sold: “I love that. I love his intensity. I love his toughness on defense. It’s something we need. I’m saying it now: I hope we keep him and he’s with us for the long run. A guy like that can be helpful.”

The Enigma that is Marvin

After four straight good games, Marvin Williams has fallen by the wayside again, disappearing against the Miami Heat. Is this the new consistency? Nobody can expect a guy to have a good game every game, but sometimes it’s just the worst timing in the world. It’s not like he does it on purpose, but what gives? Part of the issue may be that Marvin simply does not have what it takes to impose his will on the game from any particular aspect, on a night-to-night basis. While his defense is the most consistent and effective part of his game most of the time, the team simply needs more than decent-to-good defense sometimes. In fact, now more than ever (since Joe Johnson is out), the Hawks need for Marvin to be better in at least one area, if not two. Without a good night on the boards or in scoring, the Hawks are forced to go to the not-yet-quite-healthy Mo Evans for points and rebounds, or are otherwise leaning too heavily on Jamal Crawford, who will take on the task whether it’s a good idea or not. If you think that thought is off base, then read between these last lines. Either way, the point remains – the Hawks will need more from Marvin against the better teams, and tonight is no exception. Can he deliver?

HAWKS VS. MAGIC

Last time these two teams met, it wasn’t anywhere near a blowout. In fact, the Hawks nearly pulled the victory off, sans some turnovers and missed shots down the final stretch. Some say Orlando simply didn’t shoot well and had to find other ways to grind out the win. Others say the Hawks competed and made the Magic guard them for once. Regardless of what theory you have, the real story may have been who was missing in that game. The Magic didn’t have starting point guard Jameer Nelson, and the Hawks didn’t small forwards Marvin Williams and Mo Evans. Which guy(s) makes a bigger difference for each team? It will be hard to tell, as the Hawks come into this game as having drawn the short straw, what with leading scorer Joe Johnson unavailable.

What’s bad about this is the fact that Joe had a good game against the Magic last time, shooting over 50% and posting 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Outside of his efforts, Al Horford’s efficient offense, and Jamal’s free throws, the Hawks struggled on offense. What will they do without Joe? Jamal will no doubt have a big hand in things, but the Hawks will need more from other sources. Mike Bibby’s outside shooting has been a real boost for Atlanta on most nights, and Josh Smith will need to be on as well. Can the Hawks get Al Horford going early and run the offense through him, or will it have to be somebody else?

If you ask me, the biggest challenge for the Hawks won’t be Dwight Howard. We probably already know how that is going to unfold. Drew will likely start Twin (Jason Collins) at center, and Dwight will get his. No, the problem will be Jameer Nelson. This guy is driving the Magic bus as much an anyone, and he’s proving himself to be one of the better point guards in a conference that boasts some pretty good younger ones at the position. Averaging 15 points and 7 assists per game is good, but the scary part is Nelson’s shooting. The Magic guard is hitting 49% from the field overall, and nails 40.7% from three point range. If the Hawks can’t clamp down on Jameer Nelson, look for an early blowout, as he’ll feed Dwight and those nasty perimeter shooters on a regular basis once the defense tries collapsing on him. If you don’t believe that it unfolds this way, ask the Chicago Bulls, who endured a 29-point loss at the hands of the Magic several days ago. At the center of it all was none other than Nelson, who shot a blistering 8 of 11 from the field, enroute to a 24 point, 9 assist outing.

So…

YOUR TAKE

1) How do the Hawks stop Jameer Nelson?

2) How do the Hawks make the Magic guard them, and whom do they run the offense through?

3) Can Damien Wilkins make a big impact in this game?

4) Who steps up for the Hawks in this game?

155 comments Add your comment

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
3:38 pm

That Hoopinion guy can’t even post a positive story without a negative spin.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?page=EastStorylines-101207

Rufus1

December 7th, 2010
4:01 pm

@AJ

I feel the same way about the Hoopinion guy….I have had to call him out more than once about his negative spin.

JM

December 7th, 2010
4:24 pm

Good win last night. If the front court plays well again tonight, we’ll be good. I’m starting to like Josh Powell’s pick up. Twin did what he was brought back to do. Would like to see a little be more of JC2 and Teague at the end of quarters to give them some burn.

Go Hawks!

Big Ray

December 7th, 2010
5:08 pm

Will fatigue be an issue tonight? If we lose, will it be a topic of conversation (transation: excuses)

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
5:38 pm

Fatigue? Not with this wickedly tremendous bench we have.

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
7:22 pm

I’m tired of this Lopez guy already…

niremetal

December 7th, 2010
7:34 pm

I’ll make my first truly bold prediction in awhile tonight – Jamal will go for 50 tonight.

niremetal

December 7th, 2010
7:47 pm

Ok, maybe not :roll:

niremetal

December 7th, 2010
7:50 pm

Heh…didn’t hear Marvin call glass on that one…

niremetal

December 7th, 2010
8:07 pm

Etan’s looking good out there.

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
8:07 pm

Nice 1st half by the Hawks. Not much to complain about. Even Ethan look good in his brief playing time…

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
8:37 pm

I’m late to the party… why did Teague only get 3 first hakf minutes in what appeared (from the box score) to be an easy half for the home team?

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
8:43 pm

Astro,

I’m not sure but it looks as if Teague has falling out of the rotation with the addition of Damien. LD is playing Jamal at backup PG with Mo and Damien on the wings…

O'Brien

December 7th, 2010
8:52 pm

vava,

I think if Jameer played last night, Teague might have gotten minutes. he will have to stay ready though, because his time will come.

AJ, Big Ray,

I would prefer to trade Mo Evans, but I dont think he has any trade value, expecially coming off an injury. I do think Hawks need to keep Wilkins.

I like the fact that they were willing to bring Pape over, but if he wasn’t going to play or be sent to the D-League, then I’m not sure why they helped pay his buyout to come over, because we might need his roster space.

Wow. All that was one sentence…

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
9:00 pm

Melvin, thanks. I seem to recall another head coach choosing Jamal as the back-up PG over Teague.

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
9:07 pm

That was the first time in 3 years that ‘Nique offered up some quality analysis, when he just said that Josh needs to run on fast breaks more often and allow the guards to feed him the ball… instead of bringing up the ball himself. He actually mentioned it in the context of that pass from Jamal to Josh. WOw, insightful and timely analysis from ‘Nique. What’s next, a Pape Sy sighting?

O'Brien

December 7th, 2010
9:08 pm

AJ,

It looks like Teague will have to be more aggressive, and find more ways score in order to get more minutes.

NJ cuts the lead to 8. Hawks need to put this one away.

If we win, we will be 4-1 w/o JJ. It will be interesting to see how we do when we go on the road w/o him (at Spurs, at Hornets, at Bucks etc).

O'Brien

December 7th, 2010
9:09 pm

AJ,

Nique said the same thing last night about Josh late in the Orlando game.

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2010
9:11 pm

Dan Gilbert is about to have a garage sale… the Cavs are beginning to lose in epic fashion.

I Believe In This Team

December 7th, 2010
9:15 pm

Big Ray,

Any info on JORDAN Crawford. Where’d he go?

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
9:15 pm

If the Hawks keep Damien for the reminder of the year, LD will have to make a choice between Mo and Damien as the backup SF when Joe comes back. Now that I think about it, who will get to dress out when we play teams with big centers? Would LD continue to go big and have Ethan active or will he go with an extra wing player and have Mo and Damien active.

O'Brien

December 7th, 2010
9:28 pm

Melvin,

Mo Evans does not look healthy either, and he is too small to play SF, and so far, Damien has shown more defensive intensity.

I would rotate the inactives between Etan and Mo.

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
9:30 pm

Nice win by the Hawks…

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
9:32 pm

OB, agreed. Mo or Ethan…

Melvin

December 7th, 2010
9:34 pm

OB,

Do you think LB will stay with big lineup when Joe comes back against the teams with big centers?

doc

December 7th, 2010
9:35 pm

hmm 12 players found some time even if limited on the court tonight by the summary. nice job to ld to get guys in games. another win without the big dog.

really like the addition of wilkens. that could be huge as he is a pro that can go of on occasion and very willing to do the dirty work. perfect situation for him and the hawks. keep d wilkins, send sy to d league and cough up the money for making the stupid mistake of buying sy. no brainer but havent we said that before and seen something else transpire?

niremetal

December 7th, 2010
10:01 pm

Doc,

Wilkins, not Wilkens. Give the man’s family some respect ;)

O'Brien

December 7th, 2010
10:20 pm

melvin,

I would stay with the big lineup even after Joe comes back. Bibby/JJ/Josh/Al and Twin would be my big lineup (depending on the opponent of course).

doc,

Sy might be another example of the ASG not spending the money wisely. Why contribute to a buyout, and have him take up a valuable roster spot, if he was not going to play this year?

Because although he will get to practice with the NBA guys, I still dont expect muc from him next season.

doc

December 7th, 2010
11:07 pm

yeah nire, in a bit of a hurry to get er done. oot. my bad.

o’b exactly. too frigging much planning for the future, wasted a pick on him as i doubt anyone else knew of him.

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
7:08 am

I Believe In This Team ,

Jordan Crawford is around, but he was listed as inactive last night. I don’t know why…

Astro Joe ,

Different coaches, different reasons, but a common thread. Not that I need to tell you this, but Woody relied on Jamal as the second man on the team for putting the ball in the basket. He chose him over not just Teague, but also Marvin and others.

Drew sees what anybody else does, however. Jamal will make a play and cause the opposing team problems. Teague can play better man-to-man defense, but is all too often either the odd man out on offense, or can’t make plays for himself that don’t involve floaters or dump-off passes. That ain’t gonna get it. It’s perhaps an unfairly early prognosis on Teague, but my guess is we’ll see little to no change in his offensive game this season. He’ll have bursts where he gets to the basket successfully in some games, and might even hit a jumper or two (open, of course). Beyond that…

I’d say he improved his defense quite a bit over this past offseason. The next offseason needs to be a very intense focus on developing his jump shot, and his overall scoring attack. He already knows how to pass the ball and get assists. Now he must become a threat himself. It may be that he takes as long as Mike Conley did to come around. But I don’t know that he will go as far as Conley has gone. In the meantime, we have to hope that either A)Bibby plays like he is now for another season and a half, at least, or B) We make a move of some sort to get another solid pg.

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
7:16 am

The whole Pape Sy thing is probably misunderstood to a point, by all of us. Lacking inside information will do that to you.

Are we really to assume that the front office and coaching staff knew Sy would not be able to practice and play this season? I don’t think anyone foresaw the back injuries/problems.

Did we not know that Sy, like most 2nd rounders and European players, was a project?

The buyout is a mystery of sorts, and it certainly can be argued that this was an unwise expenditure, but what explanation is there for this? Why would the front office make such a move? Is this a product of their foreign scouting results, or are they buying into something Larry Drew saw/said?

Perhaps more pressing is the matter of not signing a guy like Wilkins in the offseason, while signing Etan Thomas, who has yet to prove his worth. Yes, he did well in spot minutes last night. Got anything else to offer or show us?

Fact is, Sy is a total unknown to us, even those who watched him play in the summer league. The Hawks aren’t known for making use of the D-League. All we have to go on is what Drew says, and right now he has other matters to occupy his mind. Wait and see is all we can do, and that begins with next season’s summer league…

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
7:43 am

As for last night’s game:

1) Al Horford gets a nice double double, and that was good to see.

2) Brook Lopez is overrated. Yeah, he had 24 points and shot 50%. Don’t care. Still overrated.

3) Josh Smith was magnificent, most notably on offense. If you want to say something bad about him (hardly unexpected), you can focus on the fact that he had just 3 rebounds. I’d harp on that if it weren’t for the fact that the man added a team high 7 assists, just 1 turnover, and shot 14 of 16 from the field.

4) Al had 6 assists himself. Stupendous!

5)Etan Thomas looked good in his token 3 minutes. Hurrah.

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
7:45 am

6) Jamal Crawford was also magnificent, and his assists have picked up noticeably in Joe’s absence (when he’s not hot-dogging it too much).

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
7:47 am

Oddly enough, Jamal’s defensive effect, which used to be totally non-existant, has also begun to make a tad bit of an impact very recently. His career average is 1 steal per game. He’s had 5 in his last two games.

Astro Joe

December 8th, 2010
9:33 am

I don’t mind the Etan signing.. Collins had to be a question mark headed into this season. He has been able to maintain his conditioning but no way Sund should have banked on that… so Etan was good insurance policy if Collins re-discovered Hardee’s. Also, LD was determined to defeat the Orlando dragon and obviously felt that having expendable bigs was needed to protect Al from foul trouble. Collins/Etan are the Hawks version of what Shaq brought to the Cavs last season, the Dwight Defense.

But if Sy was supposed to provide that wing defense that was a glaring skill gap, that (IMO) is inexcusable. The chances that you go from a decent Euro player in an average league to someone who can defend elite scoring SGs and SFs is a crazy bet. Wilkins or Antoine Wright or any number of known defenders should have been a priority over Sy.

Lastly, Ray, whatever you call it, Teague is sitting behind Jamal just like last year. And just like last year, he hasn’t earned the playing time. I hope that he spent last night studying Jordan Farmar… because that seems to be the better model for Teague. (And just like last year, our current 1st round pick is doing a lot of bench sitting).

niremetal

December 8th, 2010
9:52 am

The buyout of Sy made zero sense to me as well. We are letting Akyol and Gladyr develop a bit more on the dime of European teams before we make a decision on whether to bring them over. Why the hell did we go out and immediately sign Sy?

Speaking of our prior former second round picks, Akyol is back with Efes Pilsen this year (where he’s in a deep bench role) after spending a year in Italy (where he was a starter). To make matters worse, Italy offers a slightly higher level of competition than does Turkey – Efes Pilsen is probably better than all the Italian teams, but the rest of the Turkish league is bleh – which means that Gladyr is getting fewer minutes against worse competition. Not sure why he made the move. He seemed to develop more last year than in all his previous years combined.

Gladyr is playing with Manresa in Spain again this year, where he’s alternated between starting and being the 6th man. Manresa is a terrible team, but they are playing in the first-tier Spanish league, which is one of the strongest pro leagues outside the United States (Madrid, Barcelona, and Baskonia are three of the best non-US teams in the world). So he’s getting large doses of playing time against great competition. He’s struggling with his shot this year, but I think that’ll iron out by the end of the season. My guess is that he will have a breakout season next year (2011-2012) and that he’ll come over to the NBA the year after that (2012-2013).

niremetal

December 8th, 2010
9:53 am

*which means that Akyol is getting fewer minutes against worse competition

Astro Joe

December 8th, 2010
10:21 am

I honestly forgot about Akyol. At least Gladyr participated in the summer league this past year.

niremetal

December 8th, 2010
10:33 am

Akyol actually has some game. He had a great season last year in Italy. His move back to Turkey baffles me.

Astro Joe

December 8th, 2010
10:52 am

nire, maybe he isn’t as ambitious as others… he may enjoy playing in familiar surroundings more than playing in a better league. Non-athletes often have to make those tough decisions, a better job a thousand miles from family vs. staying close to home.

niremetal

December 8th, 2010
11:01 am

Fair enough, AJ. Easy to forget that bball players legitimately can care about things other than preparing themselves for an NBA career…

Big Ray

December 8th, 2010
12:03 pm

Astro Joe ,

What do you want me to say? Oddly enough, most of the noise was made about a big man in the off season, and few harped on the subject of a wing defender and a solid backup pg. I still have to credit Niremetal for being one of the foremost harbingers of doom on that front. Yet, I also recall some battles on that conversation that are certainly not what I’m hearing now

:lol: ……

Teague is what he is: not ready. Like I said, different motivations, but common themes (and results). Woody wanted to bring Teague along slowly. Drew wanted to give him a shot at earning the starting job. You can’t get anymore different than that.

As for the 1st round pick sitting on the bench, you can’t tell me that it’s for the same reasons. We needed a backup pg last season, just as we need one this season. We don’t need our 4th shooting guard, who happens to be a rookie, to play for us, unless we’re dead set on trading our 2nd one (Jamal), a suggestion that you very recently shot down (justifiably, I might add). Am I defending Drew’s decision to bottle JC2 up? Nope. And clearly, the kid is more ready to play his position than Teague has ever been. But playing him either takes minutes from Joe or Jamal, and he isn’t the pinch-hitter on defense that Mo is. Like I said before, you know all this.

There are similarities to what happened last season, and under a different coach. But that’s mostly on the surface. I hoped better for Teague, but it ain’t happening, and I take back what I said about him being closer to ready halfway through the season. I’m all but convinced at this point that he won’t be what we need from him THIS SEASON. I actually alluded to this possibility a couple months ago, but I don’t think anybody was paying attention.

As for Sy, I’m as much in the dark about this as you are.

Niremetal ,

Yeah, I remember you hollering when the first sprinkles of what we thought were aimless speculation about Pape Sy started coming out. Turns out we were talking out of our butts as we scoffed at the idea of Sy coming over this season, let alone in connection with a buyout. We even suggested that it was his agent trying to drum up a better deal for him. Wow, how wrong we were about that one, eh?

You’re right, it made no sense. Which is why I’ve said that “stupid” always worries me more than “cheap” ever did….

Hudson Hawk

December 8th, 2010
12:29 pm

Keep winning. Then we’ll see how smart or stupid it was to make Joe a billionaire.

Astro Joe

December 8th, 2010
1:38 pm

Ray, there are better options in front of JC2 this year and there were better options in front of Teague last year (and evidently, again this year). I also recall posting names like Devean George, Trenton Hassell and Antoine Wright a few times during the summer. Of course, I assumed that Teague would be a rotational player. I can understand him not playing on the road against Orlando, but getting a cameo appearance at home against the Nets? Teague came into the season a half-step away from being our starting PG (based on someof LD’s comments) and is now a 3rd stringer (again). I wonder if the Hawks should send Teague to the D-League now… while he is still eligible. That league seems better for guards/wings than bigs.

Astro Joe

December 8th, 2010
1:40 pm

Maybe we should trade Joe for Kenyon Martin, that way we get an expiring contract and we clearly no longer need Joe on the team. Denver, meanwhile, needs a scorer when Melo leaves (along with JR).

Sautee

December 8th, 2010
8:40 pm

Between nire’s snarls at Melvin and AJ’s smarm, this blog is not as fun as it used to be.

Oh well, c’est la vie, I guess.

O'Brien

December 8th, 2010
8:55 pm

Big Ray,

I think more fans (than you remember) talked about a wing defender over the summer. Some of us threw Matt Barnes’ name out there, along with Rodney Carney. Even MC looked at some wing players the Hawks could go after.

But for whatever reason, Rick decided that we didnt need any help on the wing. I know injuries have forced his hand, but it could be a blessing in disguise for 2 reasons.

1) We keep Damien Wilkins for the whole season. And if he plays well enough, maybe he is an option as a backup next season when Mo’s contract expires. If JJ was healthy, maybe we dont sign Damien.

2) There is better ball movement. Hopefully when JJ comes back, guys will continue to share the ball, and not feel obligated to defer to JJ.

Against the Spurs, I think LD should go with the big lineup, with Twin/Al/Josh.

kwooden1

December 8th, 2010
11:23 pm

I like what LD is doing with the line-up and the guys minutes. I think Jeff is in a tough spot in terms of getting a lot of minutes because Jamal is playing so well. Bibby is also playing adequate defense and his shooting has been great. I’m really hoping that Wilkins can push Marvin and Mo. Right now it’s clear that Wilkins fits and can contribute now. Hopefully Marvin sees that he really needs to get more consistent or he could be reading the bench even longer.

wordsmithtom

December 9th, 2010
7:36 am

kwooden1,
I too like the big lineup, especially against teams with tall, mobile bigs like Orlando and NJ.

Still think Marvin at 2 creates problems for other teams. His knee is still not 100%. He also will never be a LeBron or Kobe. Still, a lot of 2’s won’t like having him dog them. Wilkins gives a more than adequate backup there as well, along with JC1. Actually, this is the sort of team Bibby led when Sacramento went all the way. If Collins can clog the middle, we don’t need him to score.

niremetal

December 9th, 2010
8:44 am

Ray,

Yup. I’m certainly not going to argue that the decision to buyout and sign Sy right after the draft was the most harmful decision the Hawks have made in the past decade, I honestly think it is the most baffling. I really cannot think of a single logical reason as to why it would be better to bring him over this year instead of him letting him develop more in Europe on another team’s dime. As DraftExpress tweeted right after we signed him:

Is Atlanta’s Pape Sy possibly the least qualified (or most unlikely) basketball player to ever be signed by an NBA team?